Terminalia sericea
Burch. ex DC.

Family : Combretaceae
Common names : mususu (Venda); silver cluster-leaf or silver terminalia (Eng.); vaalboom (Afr.)

Terminalia sericea is a small to medium-sized deciduous tree which grows up to 9 m, but individual trees can reach 23 m in height.

Terminalia sericea has reddish-brown branches. The leaves are crowded at the ends of branches, narrowly obovate-elliptic with smooth margins, blue-green above, paler below, densely covered in silvery hairs. It flowers mostly in September–January. The flowers are in axillary spikes and are pale yellow to creamy white. The fruit is an oval nut surrounded by a flat wing. The fruits are often parasitized and form deformed masses of thin round galls.

Left: Terminalia sericea flowers
Right: Terminalia sericea leaves and fruit

Conservation status
Silver cluster-leaf is not listed on the Red Data List as a threatened species.

Distribution and habitat
Terminalia sericea occurs in a variety of types of open woodlands particularly on sandy soils. It may grow as a dominant or co-dominant species in mixed deciduous forests such as Brachystegia, mopane, Combretum or Acacia forest. It occurs from Tanzania and the DRC southwards to Angola and Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana and South Africa. A good place in South Africa to find silver cluster-leaf is the Kruger National Park (KNP) area.

Derivation of name and historical aspects
The name Terminalia was given from the Latin word terminus, referring to the leaves appearing at the very tips of the shoots. The specific Latin epithet sericea, silky, pertains to the dense silky hairs on the leaves of the species.

Silver cluster-leaf is a deciduous tree of the Combretaceae family that occurs in tropical and sub-tropical regions and on the plateau. They grow almost invariably on sandy soil and may be dominant in open woodlands. In the areas where they occur they often colonize open areas such as cutlines and fire breaks or areas opened by timber harvesting. Silver cluster-leaf has a tendency to form thickets and to produce a very large biomass.

Uses and cultural aspects
Terminalia sericea is important in traditional medicine. The leaves and roots are boiled in water and the infusion is taken orally for the treatment of coughs, diarrhoea and stomach aches. The leaves can be used as an antibiotic for wounds. In case of bleeding, a paste can be made by cooking the leaves in water and placing them on the wounds. The wood is used as a source of energy for cooking and boiling water, for constructing huts, for fencing material and for solid structures. Leaves are food for caterpillars during the rainy season.

Growing Terminalia sericea

It germinates readily from fresh healthy seeds. In the nursery the seeds are planted into starter bags. They are then transplant into larger bags or directly into the soil as soon as the root system develops or reaches the base of the starter bag.

References and further reading

  • Coates Palgrave, M. 2002. Keith Coates Palgrave Trees of southern Africa, edn 3. Struik, Cape Town.
  • Drummond, R.B. 1981. Common trees of the Central Watershed Woodlands of Zimbabwe. Natural Resources Board, Harare.
  • Palmer, E. & Pitman, N. 1972. Trees of southern Africa. Balkema, Cape Town.
  • Van Wyk, B. [A.E.] & Van Wyk, P. 1997. Field guide to trees of southern Africa. Struik Publishers, Cape Town.
  • Raimondo, D., Von Staden, L., Foden, W., Victor, J.E., Helme, N.A., Turner, R.C., Kamundi, D.A. & Manyama, P.A. (eds) 2009. Red List of South African plants. Strelitzia 25. South African National Biodiversity Institute, Pretoria.


If you enjoyed this webpage, please record your vote.

Excellent - I learnt a lot
Good - I learnt something new

Thabo Masupa
Pretoria National Herbarium
February 2012








To find out if SANBI has seed of this or other SA species, please email our seedroom.
This page forms part of the South African National Biodiversity Institute's plant information website www.plantzafrica.com.